Sports Outside the Beltway

Miguel Cabrera – Hall of Fame

In reference to an article by Clark Spence in the April 1st edition of on Miguel Cabrera, I wanted to take the deeper look. The good folks at have a database that lists the following players as ‘Most Similar’* of Cabrera for each of the three years he’s been in the league by age. Therefore, in his first season, at age 21, the player who had the most historically similar season to Miguel at age 21 was Hank Aaron in 1955.
At 21                  At 22                 At 23
Hank Aaron         Hank Aaron         Hank Aaron
Ruben Sierra       Frank Robinson   Orlando Cepeda
Sam Crawford     Orlando Cepeda   Frank Robinson
Dick Kokos         Tony Caligliaro      Joe Medwick
Mickey Mantle      Mickey Mantle      Mickey Mantle
Joe Medwick        Joe Medwick        Andruw Jones
Whitey Lockman  Hal Trosky           Ken Griffey, Jr.
Mike Tiernan       Ken Griffey, Jr.    Hal Trosky
Andruw Jones    Albert Pujols        Vladimir Guerrero
Greg Luzinski     Cesar Cedeno      Al Kaline

There are obviously a number of interesting ways you can begin to compare players of different eras, but believing the numbers as interpreted the most interesting dissimilarity between these players and Cabrera is that it appears Cabrera will play at 3B for a number of seasons. Of the top 10 prospects listed in the Marlins system by Baseball America only Chris Coghlan plays 3b. He was ranked 9th in the system in an article by Mike Berardino. Last year Coghlan split time between the Gulf Coast League Marlins (Rookie) and Jamestown (A) – he played 30 games and hit .297/.373/.372 with 0 HR. In three years at Univ. of Mississippi he played in 189 games, hit over .350 twice and hit 13 HR. Baseball America notes Coghlan playes “3b/2b” and he certainly does not seem to have the power stroke yet – if ever – to play the hot corner.

While Spence discusses the comparisons to other players hitting stats he does not mention any other player’s positions. Of the players above only Cepeda (1B), Trosky (1B), and Pujols (1B/3B) had a primary position that was not in the outfield. Of the 571 games Cabrera has appeared in he has played 348 in the outfield and 221 at 3B, he appeared as a designated hitter in 2 games as well. While defensive prowess is clearly not at the forefront of Spence’s article – the only mention of position made in the whole article is noting that Cabrera was an ‘18 year-old shortstop’ – it is interesting that there are no 3b to compare him with.

Other ‘slugging’ 3b like Mike Schmidt and George Brett had their breakout seasons after the age of 23. In 1974 at 24 Schmidt hit .282/.395/.546 with 36 HR; in 1979 at 24 Brett hit .312/.373/.532 with 22 HR.

It is worth noting that both Brett and Schmidt had played in the majors for a number of seasons before their ‘breakout’ years. If Cabrera is still in search of his ‘breakout’ it may be a season for the ages.

3b is changing. As SS has evolved from Ozzie Smith to Miguel Tejada, the other infield positions are also seeing power jumps. While Cabrera is certainly putting up numbers that would seem ‘hall worthy’ – a shift in the type of players at the position may change who and what is required for entrance.

*As is written on
Similarity scores are not my concept. Bill James introduced them nearly 15 years ago, and I lifted his methodology from his book The Politics of Glory (p. 86-106). To this there is a positional adjustment. Each position has a value, and you subtract the difference between the two players position. James just uses primary position, but I computed an average position for players who had more than one primary position.


Related Stories:
Recent Stories:

Comments are Closed


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.